The School is at the heart of our work, providing specialist therapeutic care and education to emotionally-traumatised children aged 5-13.
Welcome to our school
Director, The Mulberry Bush School
Set in 5 acres of rural Oxfordshire our School offers outstanding 38-week and 52-week residential care and education to children who have suffered early years trauma and have severe social, emotional and mental health difficulties.
The Mulberry Bush School offers individualised integrated therapeutic care, treatment and education overseen by a multidisciplinary team of highly trained professional staff. Our continual focus is to help children learn to manage their emotions and behaviours through the development of safe and trusting relationships within a group setting.
Everyone of our children benefits from a highly integrated therapeutic approach to all aspects of their life. It is the lived experience, our unique ‘24 hour’ curriculum, that provides the opportunities for our staff to work therapeutically with our children rather than through individual therapy sessions.
Our community provides a highly structured and psychologically informed environment where social relationships, the structure of the day and the activities are all deliberately designed to help people’s health and well-being. We work, not just with the children, but also their families and networks to ensure the best possible outcomes.
The School’s highly reflective culture encourages everyone; children and adults, to be curious about themselves and each other. This approach, coupled with their exceptionally high level of training, enables our staff to see beyond the challenging behaviours that our children can present and be in touch with their emotional experience. This way of working ensures that The Mulberry Bush provides empathetic care and education for all of the children who live at the School.
Children who have had highly disrupted experiences of education are taught to become curious about the world around them, to develop confidence in core functional skills across all national curriculum subjects, and to see themselves as successful, independent learners. Provision is tailored to the child’s needs, with multiple opportunities for sensory, play-based and outdoor learning. Children work in small class groups, with high adult ratios, and are supported by a dedicated team who provide play and support regulation. Education is fully integrated into the overall work of the school.
The work of our Group Living Team is about supporting the children through the ups and downs of day to day life. Our staff work hard to build authentic and caring relationships with the children. The adults continuously role model healthy behaviour and offer a creative combination of good boundaries, high hopes and expectations, sensitive care and positive experiences. This work enables our children to feel valued and respected, from here they can grow through nurture and challenge.
Family Work and Therapy
The multi-disciplinary Therapies & Networks Team, headed by the school’s Clinical Lead, is fully integrated into the overall work of the school through children’s treatment teams. It offers Music, Drama, Speech and Language and Psycho-Therapies to children for whom it will be helpful. Family and Network Practitioners and our Family Link Worker offer therapeutic and supportive work for families and facilitate collaborative working with the child’s network and other professionals.
Our Referrals & Partnerships Manager works closely with parents , carers and professionals to help you think about whether a referral to the Mulberry Bush is the right way forward for your child. We develop relationships with families and professional networks from the first contact with them, in order to ensure that you know exactly who to go to with questions and issues that arise throughout the planning and referral process. We believe in getting placements right for children so that they experience the consistency and care they deserve and will work with you to ensure this.
Our School Leadership Team
Job title - Head of The Therapies and Networks Team
Jennifer has worked at the Mulberry Bush since 2008 and in her current role since 2017. Read more
Job title - Referrals Manager
Angus has over thirty years’ experience of working in therapeutic environments. This includes working in therapeutic communities, children’s homes, CAMHS Teams and alongside social work teams. Read more
Job title - Head Teacher
Jessica Hooper joined The Mulberry Bush School as Head Teacher in April 2019, having previously taught in mainstream primary schools for 13 years Read more
Job title - Head of Group Living
Claire McCarthy is the Head of Group Living and Registered Manager. Read more
How to contact our Referrals & Partnerships Manager
Please get in touch with Angus Burnett if you have any any questions or would like to know more about the referral process.
You can contact Angus via email at [email protected], or by calling him on
01865 300202 or 07775 441730.
Statement of purpose
You can download a copy of the full Statement of Purpose Here
The Mulberry Bush School works with some of the most challenging children in the country, and with their families and carers. Our aim is to help the children and their families thrive and achieve fulfilling lives within their communities and as part of society.
The Mulberry Bush School is different to other residential placements as we create an environment to emotionally contain such extreme levels of emotional and physical unmanageability. Our aim is to manage the anxiety, create stability and provide a challenging but nurturing therapeutic experience, that starts to heal the traumas. Our ambition is to work with the family towards returning the child at the end of their stay with us to a stable home base and appropriate school, able to function more appropriately in mainstream society. Our early intervention helps to break the cycle of deprivation that will otherwise lead to an enactment of high risk and abusive behaviours into their adult life, hence our work is both emotionally and financially cost saving to society.
Our model of practice
Since 1948 the Mulberry Bush Approach has continued to evolve and our current work is adapted and highly attuned to the needs of each child and family. Our work is underpinned by psychodynamic principles which enable us to provide an intensive and highly integrated therapeutic milieu. This lived experience includes; group living, education, individual and group therapy, nursing and specialist consultation, and works in close partnership the children’s families and their professional networks.
Enabling the development of meaningful relationships is at the heart of our work. This requires us to place emphasis on understanding our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. We incorporate new ideas and current research including trauma informed brain development into our practice, whenever appropriate. This approach sits alongside our belief in the importance of clear boundaries within a planned and predictable environment. These convey a sense of containment and safety that has often been lacking in the children’s lives. We help children to learn to be in a group and conform to its rules and expectations; we help them learn to self-regulate, and we keep children’s enthusiasm and expectations high in relation to their educational achievement. To achieve this, our staff are trained to view behaviour as a communication.
By understanding the emotional meaning of the behaviour, and reflecting on the impact of this with the children, we help the children make sense of their complex inner worlds. This self-reflective stance is built into all our staff support systems. We believe that if our staff are to work effectively with such challenging children, they have to themselves feel valued and supported.
Our core values
- We believe in the benefits of a Therapeutic Community approach.
- We value and promote a psychodynamic approach to all aspects of our work, specifically a belief in the value of reflecting on experience and learning through such reflection.
- A belief in the importance of understanding the meaning of behaviour as a form of communication used by children who cannot find other ways of communicating their confusion and distress.
- We work with a belief in the dynamic nature of individual and group relationships
- We value and promote an integrated approach to assessment, planning and delivery of services.
- We are committed to supporting staff through training, professional development, supervision and consultation.
- We are committed to a way of working which does not punish or judge people and which both respects and enables them to express their unspoken thoughts and feelings.
- We believe the above must apply to all people who use Mulberry Bush Services no matter what culture, race, religion, gender, ability or age and stage in life people may be at.
Our 3 core principles
The organisation has three core principles that underpin its therapeutic work:
- Staff need a good psychodynamic understanding to provide an informed approach
- The development of a reflective culture at all levels and in all disciplines is paramount
- Collaborative working is central to a high quality treatment environment
Our children have all suffered severe and enduring complex trauma in their early years; by that we mean that their traumas occurred in relation to the adults who were their trusted main carers.
These disruptive events and troubled relationships can lead the children to display the most extreme anxiety creating behaviours, which then gives rise to multiple placement breakdowns and school exclusions. The impact of their repeated experience of adults’ inability to cope with and survive them, has compounded their trauma and creates unmanageable levels of anxiety in the children and their professional and family networks. Children act out this anxiety and confusion through a range of extreme behaviours including; violence, damage to property, sexual inappropriateness, fire setting, absconding, roof climbing, self harm, soiling, smearing and wetting, inappropriate aggressive or racist language threats and allegations.
Parents & carers
You can download a copy of our 2023/24 school calendar here.
You can download a copy of our Information Booklet for parents, carers and professionals here.
This contains details of how we look after the children, how and when to contact them and us, and other useful information while they are in our care.
Our most recent Ofsted report for Education was in March 2023 and rated the school as ‘Outstanding’.
- The school remains outstanding.
- Most pupils love attending this school and feel that staff care for them.
- Staff have high expectations of behaviour and engagement in learning but understand when pupils find it hard to contain their anxieties.
- The school provides a unique curriculum offer linked to pupils’ personal needs. It prioritises their social and emotional development and rebuilding self-belief and self-esteem.
- Pupils learn about diversity, equalities and different faiths.
- Some subjects are less developed. Leaders are aware of this and have valid reasons why some aspects of the curriculum are given higher priority than others.
- The arrangements for safeguarding are effective. The culture to protect the welfare, health and safety of all at the school is strong.
The heart of the charity’s practice expertise is The Mulberry Bush School in Standlake, Oxfordshire.
Training, consultation and support to schools, care services and organisations working with challenging or vulnerable children, their families and communities.
The Mulberry Bush is committed to research in therapeutic residential and foster care.
MB3 (The Mulberry Bush Third Space) is the National Centre for Reflective Practice.
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